Meet the Pacific Islander who put Truk Lagoon on the scuba diver’s map and made it “the world’s greatest wreck dive.”
“Witness to War: Truk Lagoon’s Master Diver Kimiuo Aisek,” a hard cover biography written by scuba diver Dianne M. Strong, Ed.D., Associate Professor of English & Applied Linguistics (retired), University of Guam
Witness to War: Truk Lagoon's Master Diver Kimiuo Aisek infuses Pacific war history with human drama. Seventeen-year old Kimiuo witnessed the bombs and torpedoes of Operation Hailstone that decimated the Imperial Japanese Navy's Fourth Fleet harbored in Truk. The two-day American attack in February 1944 on the Japanese mandated islands was fifteen times more powerful than that delivered by the Empire at Pearl Harbor. Japanese aircraft and more than forty ships were sent to the lagoon's bottom. Kimiuo watched them go down: the ships he had worked on, the men he had known.
Kimiuo's story is rich in discovery and adventure as his once again peaceful, Pacific islands emerged years later as a world-class dive site. Time and the unstoppable sea transformed the horrors of war into a surreal garden graveyard in the calm, warm waters. Kimiuo's compassion for the wartime Japanese officers he had befriended was transformed into a passion for diving on the wrecks on which they died. Truk Lagoon emerged as a Mecca for wreck divers, and Kimiuo its master diver and patriarch of the Truk diving industry.
Preserved below the lagoon's placid surface, the past beckoned: to WWII veteran and syndicated journalist Charles Hillinger, scuba pioneer-undersea world explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau, Skin Diver magazine Editor/Publisher Paul Tzimoulis, and underwater cinematographer Al Giddings (Search for the Shinohara Submarine, The Deep, The Abyss, Titanic). Truk's underwater time capsule lured the famed "doer"--deep ocean explorer and researcher--Dr. Sylvia Earle.
Internationally recognized underwater photographers Carl Roessler, Cathy Church, Stan Waterman, Chuck Nicklin and Jim Church also began recording Truk's undersea beauty. Around the world by word and image these Truk diving pioneers in the 1970s spread the news of this unique time capsule, what Tzimoulis had called "an underwater phenomenon without equal."
As the world arrived by 727 jet at his lagoon islands, Kimiuo, curious and eager to learn, was ready to share and to teach. Divers came from around the globe to explore Truk's underwater museum. Kimiuo guided them and made sure they stayed safe. When they were not underwater, Kimiuo entertained his guests by recalling his wartime memories of living in the Nan'yôJapanese mandated islands. But Kimiuo did even more. He forged lifelong friendships with the divers who had traveled to Truk as tourists. He now welcomed his “guests” as members of his extended island family.
With only three years of Japanese schooling but years of experience as a fisherman, merchant mariner and a fisheries diver, the former island boy founded the first dive operation in Micronesia. Celebrities and not-so-famous divers now realized a dream of a lifetime--to explore the once-forgotten "Ghost Fleet" of Truk Lagoon. Australia's funny man Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin came to Truk, as did French Connection's Gene Hackman, Bay Watch's David Hasselhoff, Titanic and Avatar’s James Cameron, United States Senator John McCain, and film producer Gale Ann Hurd (Armageddon, Aliens, Terminator). NASA's Dr. Kathy Sullivan who had made three space walking missions also explored the "inner space" of Truk Lagoon.
“Titanic” film producer and National Geographic Explorer James Cameron of Mariana Trench Challenger Deep fame (April 2012) was one of the last Truk Lagoon divers to enjoy Kimiuo’s company. Fifteen weeks before his death, Kimiuo treated his friend, Cameron, and fellow “Titanic” crew members to his birthday party at his family-owned business, Truk Blue Lagoon Resort, in September 2000. A former partner in a Truk liveaboard, Cameron loved Kimiuo, and loved exploring Truk Lagoon. Thus he readily agreed to provide the foreword to Kimiuo’s biography.
When Kimiuo died at age seventy-three in January 2001, Truk Lagoon had become not just a place renowned for its role in World War II history, but the world's top wreck diving destination. From the horror of war had come the birth of a unique underwater monument, and the legacy Kimiuo left for the people of his beloved lagoon.
Kimiuo Aisek - Born September 13, 1927 - Died January 4, 2001 - World War II Survivor, and Eyewitness to "Operation Hailstone" - A Great Fisherman and a Dive Master - The Founder of the Chuuk Underwater Diving Industry - Greatest Diver in the Pacific - A Great Man of the Sea with a Big Heart --- Akio Okada, 2001
On 26 January 2009, Kimuo Aisek became the first diver to be inducted posthumously into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. Accepting the award on his behalf at Grand Cayman Island were two generations of Aiseks: his son, Gradvin, and grandson, Advin.
Please help me put this book into the hands of people who love Pacific history, scuba diving, or just a great yarn about a man of the sea. As Kimiuo’s “adopted American daughter,” I have been working on “Witness” since 1999, and its twelve chapters are almost finished. While I love my “research” dive trips to Truk Lagoon, my tax accountant says it’s time to get the book into print!
Since 2004 more than 500 divers and “friends” have returned the “Witness to War” promotional post cards to order copies. The Visitors Board of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) funded these cards. Now I need capital for the book’s printing, shipping, distributing and fulfilling your pledges.
Pledge today to support “Witness.” You will receive a hard cover copy of the book AND help commemorate two exciting events:
40th Anniversary of the founding of Blue Lagoon Dive Shop: November 13, 2013 – the first dive shop in Micronesia, still Aisek family-operated
70th Anniversary of “Operation Hailstone:” February 17-18, 2014 –Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher’s Task Force 58 American carrier-based attack on Truk Lagoon, headquarters of the Combined 4th Fleet of the Japanese Navy and Imperial Japanese Army
A portion of the book’s proceeds will support the Kimiuo Aisek Memorial Museum being built adjacent to Blue Lagoon Dive Shop in Chuuk, FSM (for air conditioning, maintenance and security).
My progress will be posted in my Kickstarter updates and on my “Witness” Facebook page. The incentives for you to pledge are as creative as the ways in which Mother Nature has enveloped the sunken ships. They come in a range to fit every budget, bibliophile to philanthropist.
As the US Territory of Guam lacks quality printing services, this limited edition hard cover must be printed off-island and shipped to Guam. To assure this commemorative book is on hand for the historic anniversaries, I am going full throttle to this dive site: Kimiuo’s story recorded in a 12-chapter hard cover book.
So don’t hesitate another minute to DIVE IN! Support “Witness” and help preserve Kimiuo Aisek’s legacy in a hard cover book. Kinisou Chapur! (That’s Chuukese for thank you)!
Why do I need $20,000?
Kickstarter is an all or nothing cash generator. Instead of browsing a bookstore, you have an opportunity to participate in the process of making history—Kimiuo’s history. The “tribe” I am trying to reach includes veterans of Truk diving, divers who still dream of exploring this underwater museum, and readers who are intrigued by the Pacific war. While the shipwrecks have been documented in books, magazines and videos, no one has recorded Kimiuo’s story.
My $20,000 budget will cover printing the hard cover book and shipping to Guam, 4% Gross Receipts Tax, preparing the camera-ready text and cover art, fulfilling all pledge rewards, and a stipend for a Chuukese University of Guam student to fill out the required Customs mailing forms and stand in line with these boxes at Guam’s understaffed US post offices. Careful packing will ensure that the hard cover edges of the book do not arrive bent. (“Been here, received that!”) Then I deduct 10% for Kickstarter and Amazon’s fees and I need $20,000.
Why do I hope to raise $20,000 in just 35 days? Because I want to get the money committed so I can finish the writing and locate color photographs of Kimiuo! Let’s get this book ready for those big anniversaries! I am counting on you to share this project on Facebook and even Twitter. Social networking has driven Kickstarter since 2009. As of August 5, 2012, Kickstarter had 492 publishing “live” projects, with successful publishing projects already having raised $12.14 million dollars! So DIVE IN and click the Back This Project green bar now! Kinisou Chapur, arigato gozaimus, thank you!
Yes, since this edition will be limited to 50 backers, each will be numbered in series (1/50) and signed and dated by Author Strong.
No. If you read Shadow Divers, would you want to know what happens in each chapter? I've read it eight times and I am still surprised. I hope these chapters will surprise you.
Kickstarter uses Amazon's Flexible Payments Service, which enables their all-or-nothing funding method. No other credit card processor currently supports these requirements. Kickstarter is always talking with other companies and exploring other services, so expect more options in the future.
seconds to go
Pledge $8 or moreYou selected
Kimiuo Aisek was 8 years old when he learned to ride a bicycle while working for a Japanese military construction office in Truk. REWARD: An e-mail from me thanking you, and hoping your bicycle tires never get flat. Arrigato gozaimas!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $17 or moreYou selected
Kimiuo Aisek was 17 years old when he witnessed the Operation Hailstone attack on Truk Lagoon, February 17-18, 1944. REWARD: A custom designed Kickstarter Project sticker that says “I supported the Kimiuo Aisek Memorial Truk Lagoon Museum,” with the Blue Lagoon Dive Shop logo in the background, and a sincere kinisou chapur from the Aisek family.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $40 or moreYou selected
The first 40 horsepower Yamaha outboard motors arrived in Truk in 1981, imported by James Fritz, Seaside Store. Each Blue Lagoon Dive Shop boat uses two of these motors. REWARD: One hard cover copy of the book. Isn’t this the “bottom” line of this Kickstarter campaign? (Please add $8 to your pledge for USPS priority mail from Guam to the US; $10 to Canada; $20 for international.)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $58 or moreYou selected
58 was the number of Admiral Marc A. Mitscher’s Task Force that conducted Operation Hailstone, the attack on Truk, Feb. 17-18, 1944. REWARD: One hard cover copy of the book, one Kimiuo Aisek Memorial Truk Lagoon Museum supporter sticker, and a sincere kinisou chapur from the Aisek family. (Please add $8 to your pledge for USPS priority mail from Guam to the US; $10 to Canada; $20 for international.)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $73 or moreYou selected
’73 was the year Kimiuo founded Blue Lagoon Dive Shop and he finally made his first dive on the Aikoku Maru. REWARD: One hard cover copy of the book, and a Truk Lagoon certificate with the Aikoku Maru signed by Kimiuo’s son, Gradvin Aisek, acknowledging your support of “Witness to War” and the Kimiuo Aisek Memorial Museum, and a sincere kinisou chapur from the Aisek family. (Please add $8 to your pledge for USPS priority mail from Guam to the US; $10 to Canada; $20 for international.)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $85 or moreYou selected
85 feet is the depth at which divers can see the smoke stack of the Aikoku Maru. REWARD: Two hard cover copies of the book: one will be sent to you, and a second will be donated to a library in Guam or Micronesia, plus you will be acknowledged as a “deep” Kickstarter supporter in the book. (Please add $8 to your pledge for USPS priority mail from Guam to the US; $10 to Canada; $20 for international.)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $98 or moreYou selected
Pledge $98. 1998 was the year Kimiuo bought the Truk Continental Hotel from Continental Airlines, and celebrated the 25th anniversary of Blue Lagoon Dive Shop. REWARD: One hard cover copy of the book, autographed by the author, and one women’s style 1x1 rib scoop neck black 100% pre-shrunk ringspun cotton Anvil t-shirt, trim cup sleeves and side seam for a classic fit, with authentic Blue Lagoon Dive Shop embroidered logo near the heart (size will be selected on Backer Survey), plus you will be acknowledged as a “deep” Kickstarter supporter in the book. (Please add $8 to your pledge for USPS priority mail from Guam to the US; $10 to Canada; $20 for international.)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $135 or moreYou selected
31 backers Limited (19 left of 50)
Pledge $135 (limit 50 VERY DEEP supporters) 135 feet is the depth at which divers can see the superstructure of the Aikoku Maru with its twisted steel plates and missing bow. REWARD: One hard cover copy of the book, autographed by the author, and a fine quality print of Kimiuo’s last birthday card, created and signed in September 2000 by Titanic’s James Cameron and six other 1997 Titanic film crew members, plus you will be acknowledged as a “deep” Kickstarter supporter in the book. (Please add $8 to your pledge for USPS priority mail from Guam to the US; $10 to Canada; $20 for international.)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $160 or moreYou selected
Pledge $160 (limit SIX VERY DEEP supporters only) 160 feet is the depth of the Aikoku Maru 75mm stern gun, pointed up against three attacking Grumman Avenger dive bombers launched from the ”Mighty I” Intrepid aircraft carrier. REWARD: One hard cover copy of the book autographed by the author, an opportunity to speak by phone with Kimiuo’s son, Gradvin Aisek, at Blue Lagoon Dive Shop (at 9 a.m. local Chuuk time GMT+10), plus you will be acknowledged as a very “deep” Kickstarter supporter in the book. (Please add $8 to your pledge for USPS priority mail from Guam to the US; $10 to Canada; $20 for international.)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $211 or moreYou selected
1 backer All gone!
Pledge $211 (limit ONE VERY DEEP supporter – you better be breathing trimix!) 211 feet is the depth of the sandy Truk Lagoon bottom where the Aikoku Maru wreck lies. REWARD: Two hard cover copies of the book autographed by the author, Kimiuo’s (dusty but original) beloved Dallas Cowboy hat that he wore in 1998 when Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin interviewed him for his “Ghosts of War” documentary for Discovery Channel, and you will be acknowledged as a very “deep” Kickstarter supporter in the book. (Please add $8 to your pledge for USPS priority mail from Guam to the US; $10 to Canada; $20 for international.)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $1,944 or moreYou selected
1 backer Limited (3 left of 4)
Pledge $1944 (limit FOUR VERY DEEP supporters) 1944 is the year Operation Hailstone was launched (and author Dianne Strong was born). REWARD: Two hard cover copies of the book autographed by the author, and I will meet you in Chuuk and dive with you for four days. The Aisek family will prepare a special feast to honor you and your support of Poppa Kimiuo’s biography and museum, and you will be acknowledged as a very “deep” Kickstarter supporter in the book. If you are not a diver and don’t like long plane rides, you can just donate this award! (Please add $8 to your pledge for USPS priority mail from Guam to the US; $10 to Canada; $20 for international.)Estimated delivery:
- (35 days)